In general, students who are sick or infected with the virus should cover their faces for 10 days, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or previously infected. The latest guidance advises people to wear a mask when in the school nurse’s office or other health care settings.
The CDC asks school administrators to ensure that masking policies accommodate students with disabilities or who are immunocompromised.
“Students with immunocompromising conditions or other conditions or disabilities that increase the risk of becoming very ill with COVID-19 should not be placed in segregated classrooms or otherwise segregated from other students,” the agency said.
Routine testing is no longer recommended, with few exceptions
The agency no longer recommends routine testing in K-12 schools unless Levels of COVID-19 Community Transmission Areas are high.
If so, school administrators should consider implementing health screens for “high-risk activities” such as close-contact sports, band and theater. Large events like proms, tournaments, and field trips should also include testing or possibly reschedule if infection rates become concerning. According to the CDC, the same rules apply for the first day after holidays and other holiday breaks.
When it comes to testing, the new guidelines make no distinction between vaccinated or unvaccinated people — a sharp departure from previous rules.
Quarantine requirements are eliminated
As with routine testing, the CDC is no longer recommending quarantine of students or staff members who have been exposed to the virus. Instead, the agency’s new advice is that people cover their faces for 10 days and get tested.
Because of changes in testing and quarantine policies, the CDC said the “test-to-stay” program, which requires frequent testing of exposed unvaccinated students to attend school, is no longer necessary.
That being said, the agency urges schools to have “flexible, non-punitive and supportive” paid sick leave policies as well as allowing excused absences when students are ill.
“Avoid policies that encourage coming to school while sick, and support those who are learning at home when sick,” the new guidelines say.
What to do if you or your student is sick
The CDC says students and staff members who experience symptoms such as a cough, fever or sore throat should go home and get tested immediately. For people at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, the agency advises them to consult a doctor.
Those who test positive must self-isolate at home for at least five days. Later, isolation depends on whether they continue to exhibit symptoms or test positive for the virus.
Students and staff with the virus don’t have to get a negative test result to end isolation, but it can reduce the number of days they wear masks after getting sick.
But generally, the CDC recommends that students and staff continue to wear a mask for 10 days after they start showing symptoms.